Nano-enhanced Contact Lenses for the Treatment of Ocular Disease
Diseases of the posterior segment of the eye are increasing considerably, in part due to an ageing population. One such disease, Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in patients over sixty, accounts for almost 10% of blindness worldwide. Its predicted global incidence for 2020 is 196M, rising to 288M in 2040. Typical treatment involves regular injections into the eye, which is associated with significant patient discomfort and potentially serious side effects, including bleeding, infection and retinal detachment. As such, there is an unmet clinical need for the development of new and improved drug delivery techniques to treat this and similar diseases of the posterior segment of the eye. In conjunction with an industry partner, OcuMedic Inc., this project aims to address this challenge through the development of a contact lens impregnated with drug-loaded nanomaterials designed for targeted and controlled release of therapeutics for AMD and other posterior segment disease treatment. Novel lens delivery platforms such as these could greatly improve patient comfort and outcomes by negating or reducing the need for ocular injections. Research and experimental work will involve the synthesis, characterization and evaluation of novel nano-enhanced lenses, capable of attenuating the release profile as dictated by the clinical need. The project is transdisciplinary in nature, incorporating chemical, biomedical, polymeric, industrial and clinical expertise, as well as being highly relevant to patients and industry.
The main phases of the research can be summarised as follows:
- Optimisation of bespoke contact lens formulations and characterisation of their drug retention and release properties.
This will include techniques such as rational design using NMR and FT-IR titrations between drug and lens monomers). Physicochemical characterisation of bespoke contact lenses will be carried out and subsequent drug loading and release properties of lenses in artificial lachrymal fluid to determine baseline drug affinity will be undertaken.
- Formulation and characterisation of drug-encapsulating nanomaterials designed to act as a drug depot for posterior segment ocular drug delivery.
Innovative nanomaterials will be formulated to encapsulate the specific model drug compounds. The resultant formulations will be fully characterised and biological evaluation of these nanomaterials will be carried out on ocular cell lines and cytotoxicity evaluation will be fully determined.
- Incorporation of nanoparticles into contact lens materials
The successful NMs will be incorporated into the most successful lens composition and after subsequent confirmation of retention of optical properties, drug release will be determined.
Over the course of the scholarship, the student will gain approximately 200 hours of teaching experience. Coupled with this, the scholar will be involved in research commercialisation projects underway within the group and be involved with both industrial and clinical collaborators.
Standard duties and responsibilities of the scholarship
With regard to the duties for the academic development of the scholarship student some examples are but not restricted to:
• Tutorials and outreach programmes
• Laboratory supervision
• Undergraduate mentoring
• Student retention
• Promotional activities and open day events
• Conference and networking organisation
This is 4 year full-time structured PhD programme
Stipend: €12,000 p/a
Fees: €4,500 p/a
Research costs: €2,000 p/a
For any informal queries, please contact Dr. Laurence Fitzhenry on +353 51 302624
For more information on this scholarship and how to apply, please go to View Website